The Trooping of the Colour is a colourful and spectacular celebration of the Sovereign’s official birthday. Its origins lie in a military tradition of showing the ‘Colours’ to your regiment, the reason was to make your troops familiar with your regiments flags and insignia. The principal role of a regiment’s Colours was to provide a rallying point on the battlefield. Displaying the ‘Colours’ at various ceremonies was called ‘trooping’, therefore the tradition of Trooping of the Colour began with a practical and important purpose.
The Guards are amongst the oldest regiments of the British Army and have served as the personal bodyguards of the Sovereign since the monarchy was restored after the English Civil War in 1660. The ceremony of Trooping the Colour is believed to have been performed first during the reign of King Charles II . In 1748, it was decided that this parade would be used to mark the official birthday of the Sovereign and it became an annual event after George III became King in 1760.
The ceremony of Trooping the Colour has developed into an impressive display of pageantry that takes place on a Saturday in June by her personal troops, the Household Division, on Horse Guards Parade, with Her Majesty the Queen herself attending and taking the salute. Over 1400 officers and men will be on parade, together with two hundred horses; over four hundred musicians from ten bands and corps of drums march. The parade route extends from Buckingham Palace along The Mall to Horse Guards Parade, Whitehall and back again.
During the ceremony, The Queen is greeted by a Royal salute and carries out an inspection of the troops. After the massed bands have performed a musical ‘troop’, the escorted Regimental Colour is carried down the ranks. The Foot Guards and the Household Cavalry then march past Her Majesty, and The King’s Troop, Royal Horse Artillery, rank past. The Queen rides in a carriage back to Buckingham Palace at the head of her Guards, before taking the salute at the Palace. The troops then return to barracks. Her Majesty then joins other members of the Royal Family on the palace balcony for a fly-past by the Royal Air Force.
There are two rehearsals that provide some entertainment for visitors, The first rehearsal known as The Major General’s Review usually takes place two weeks before the actual Birthday Parade. The second rehearsal known as The Colonel’s Review usually takes place a week before the actual Birthday Parade.
The actual ceremony itself attracts large crowds which stand on the Mall or St James Park overlooking Horse Guards Parade, the Events begin at approximately 10.00am, with the fly-past at 1.00pm.
Tickets for seated stands around Horse Guards Parade are allocated by ballot. Up to a maximum of 3 tickets can be applied for Trooping the Colour. Ticket prices are as follows for successful applicants: £30.00 each for Trooping the Colour; £10.00 each for The Colonel’s Review and tickets are free of charge for The Major General’s Review. Applications should be made in January or February only.
If you are successful with tickets for the seated stands you are expected to dress in smart casual attire. No denim allowed. Hats are optional but recommended in the case of hot weather.
The Trooping of the Colour is especially popular with visitors to London with its colourful pageantry and Royal connections and large crowds begin to develop from around 9.00am.
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